Madrona Nutrition and Fitness: Recipe and Nutrition Guide

Madrona Nutrition and Fitness:
Guide to Wellness through Holistic Diet
and Lifestyle

Rachel Fiske
Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant,
Certified Personal Trainer

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Happy Spring! I hope this transition to longer days brings with it a feeling of renewed energy, growth, and fresh starts.  

With all of this opportunity for change, I wanted to touch on a topic that I feel like has come up a lot recently for both myself and clients...that of STRESS! Not only the feeling of mentally and emotionally being under stress, but the physiological effects said stress has on the body that can lead to a myriad of all-too-common symptoms. Lets take a closer look at the main producers of our stress hormones...the adrenal glands.

Quick explanation: the adrenal glands are located by our kidneys and produce the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine. Under times of either more severe stress or cumulative consistent stress, we can go through a range of symptoms as we are asking too much of our adrenals. Phase 1 adrenal fatigue is when we are over-producing cortisol to keep up with our bodies added need for energy. This leaves us feeling "tired and wired," perhaps irritable, anxious, a running-on-fumes kind of feeling. Phase 2 is when our poor adrenal glands can't keep up anymore and are now under-producing, leaving us feeling more consistently fatigued, dragging, and drained post-exercise. What we DONT want to have happen is when we arrive at stage 3 or 4, which is burn out of the adrenal glands, as this is much harder to recover from.

Primary Components which can lead to Adrenal Fatigue:
  • lack of sleep
  • poor food choices
  • using food and drinks as stimulants when tired
  • staying up late even when fatigued
  • constantly driving yourself
  • trying to be perfect
  • lack of enjoyable and rejuvenating activities

Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:

  • difficulty getting up in the morning
  • continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep
  • craving salty foods
  • lethargy
  • increased effort to do every day tasks
  • decreased sex drive
  • decreased ability to handle stress
  • increased time to recover from injury or illness
  • light headedness when standing up quickly
  • less enjoyment or happiness with life/mild depression
  • Increased PMS
  • less focus/less ability to concentrate
  • memory less accurate
  • afternoon low around 3 or 4pm, possibly feeling better after evening meal or in the evening/night time

What You Can Do Now:

  • Lifestyle: this is clearly the hardest! Strive to find as many opportunities as possible to decrease stress at home and at work. 
  • Deep breathing and/or daily meditation practice. Starting with even 5-10 minutes of deep belly breathing makes a huge difference!
  • Eat regularly, every 3-4 hours. It is important to maintain balanced blood sugar levels when supporting the adrenals. Strive for something with healthy protein and fat sources like hard boiled eggs, nuts/seeds, organic jerky, cut up veggies or fruit with almond butter.
  • Do NOT drink coffee on an empty stomach, and really try to cut back (or cut out) caffeine altogether. This is an enemy to the adrenal glands, as well as alcohol.
  • Eat BEFORE 10AM. You need to replenish your falling glycogen stores after the previous nights sleep. Even a small snack is better than nothing at all. Try to eat lunch around noon or just before, a nutritious snack between 2-3pm, and dinner no later than 6pm (ideally).
  • Avoid refined and processed foods as much as possible, as these are big stressors on the body. Stick to real, whole foods. If your great grandparents wouldn't recognize it as food, its probably not the best choice!

  • Tulsi tea in any flavor you'd like. You can buy these from the brand Organic India online or at Whole foods, or I'd imagine most other health food stores.Great adaptogenic herb to support the adrenals.
  • Gaia Herbs tincture of adrenal supporting herbs (one called either Stress Response or Adrenal Health), buy at whole foods or here at their website.
  • Melt 1 tbsp raw coldpressed coconut oil into your tulsi tea (or any other herbal tea), 1-2 times per day to help with blood sugar stabilization, also great for immune support.
  • Supplement with chelated magnesium, which can also be purchased at whole foods. Even better, take regular epsom salt baths.
  • Supplement with fermented cod liver oil, very important for omega 3's and adrenal health!! This is my favorite brand and can be ordered online here from Green Pastures.

Important Notes on Foods To Eat:

  • Try to combine a fat, protein, and carb w/every meal.
  • Eat LOTS of fresh, organic vegetables, especially bright colored ones (more antioxidants)
  • Use sea salt on your food
  • Have your starchy carbs come from things like sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and soaked whole grains.
  • Avoid fruit in the morning, especially if its by itself.
  • Get good quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, omega 3's from fish or fish oil, nuts/seeds, avocados, good quality meats.

**There is a lot more than can and sometimes needs to be done in addressing adrenal fatigue. If you feel like you or someone you know are experiencing this and would like more information, please contact me directly!

**References and resources: 

Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James Wilson
The Cortisol Connection by Shawn Talbott and William Kraemer